Friday, January 21, 2011

House Repeals, But We Want Our Benefits

Well, as expected, House Republicans yesterday passed a largely symbolic bill to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The “Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Bill” (HR 2) passed the House by a vote of 245-to-189. The measure is not expected to pass the Senate or survive a veto by President Barack Obama.

GOP lawmakers dubbed the new law the "job-killing Obamacare" and a "government takeover of health care" that would destroy state budgets, raise premiums for small businesses and cut Medicare benefits for seniors. Republicans said that several House committees would begin drafting replacement legislation to ensure that popular patient benefits in the new law would still be available to Americans.

Senate Republicans are likely to stick to the House Republican plan to dismantle health care reform legislation piece by piece. One piece of reform that is considered likely to be repealed in the near future is the new Form 1099 reporting rules, which go into effect in 2012 and require businesses that spend more than $600 with a specific vendor to report the expenditure to the IRS. Lawmakers from both parties and the White House agree the paperwork burden is too onerous. The White House supports repealing the 1099 reporting requirement for small businesses, noted an administration source.

Past efforts to repeal the Form 1099 provision failed over disagreements on how to make up the $17 billion the measure was expected to raise to help pay for health care reform. Once both chambers reach accord on a suitable revenue offset, it is likely to pass quickly and smoothly. House Republicans have already introduced the bill repealing the tax requirement (Small Business Paperwork Mandate Elimination Bill of 2011 (HR 4)), indicating that it will be one of their first pieces of business. Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., have said they would introduce 1099 repeal legislation on January 25.

I’ll Take My ACA Benefits, Thank You

Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced that three million Medicare beneficiaries who reached the drug coverage gap, or “donut hole”, during 2010 have received a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check, courtesy of the ACA.

And countless young adults between ages 19 and 26 who are not currently attending school, including my son and the children of other colleagues and friends, are now covered under their parents’ work-related health insurance policies. These are healthy young people, but accidents and illness can strike at any time and they, like older adults and younger children, need the medical and financial protection, too.

Furthermore, as of the end of October 2010, nearly 3,600 employers and unions had been approved to participate in the ACA’s Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, including many states among those fighting implementation of the ACA. The program reimburses employers for a portion of the cost of health benefits for early retirees’ and their families.

In addition, states have been receiving grants from HHS to establish health insurance exchanges, which when the ACA is fully implemented in 2014, will provide individuals and small businesses with a “one-stop shop” to find and compare affordable, high-quality health insurance options.

And, how many people do we all know, including us, who have even minor preexisting medical conditions that, without the ACA, would limit or totally exclude us from individual health insurance coverage?

For a comprehensive analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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